Review: Teenage

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Teenage
by Jon Savage

★★★½☆

2008 (originally published 2007) • 576 pages • Penguin Books

I always viewed the classical teenage experience as mainstream American media sold it to me by way of Saved by the Bell reruns as pure fantasy. It probably helped that any time Madame McBride caught me watching said show, she would always pause behind me and sigh importantly that it gave my brother “unrealistic expectations about high school.” Between being an angry, nerdy preteen too dumb to realize she was queer and the old McBride gene pool being so Catholic that it just fast-forwards all inheritors through puberty in about a week, none of it seemed particularly relevant to me and my experiences. Even the mischief my alternative kid friends would get up to seemed beyond me: my fear of my mother outweighed any desire for teenage rebellion. It was always glaringly obvious to me, the tallest girl in fifth grade, that adolescence was a social construct.

Of course, understanding that a thing is socially constructed does not mean resolving it right out of existence. (Blip!) As Rebecca Jordan-Young reminds us (while clearing up some misconceptions about gender theory), things that are socially constructed are nonetheless real. We simply have more access and agency in their construction than most social forces would like you to think. For instance, the English language is socially constructed out of historical encounters between several cultures. The English language is very, very real. But its invention and construction is obvious enough that I can yell a lot about how it is absurd that appellation is a word in English but the verb from whence it is derived is not.

So—the teenager, as we all know from the special edition DVD of Back to the Future, was invented in the 1950s for marketing purposes. But that’s only the label for a phenomenon that had always been with the human species.

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Review: How I Live Now

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How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff

★★★★½

2004 • 194 pages • Penguin Books

During my sophomore year of high school, we were given a choice between two novels to read in English class. The first was Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, which had worked its way from newly published book to speculative fiction suitable for expanding the minds of our young folk in only a few years. Examining the book, I realized that it featured a love story between two blood cousins. Obscene!, I raged to myself. Inappropriate!, I raged to myself. Despite having read American Gods at the tender age of twelve, I had virtuously tricked my mother into purchasing that novel for me by not saying a word when I presented it at the counter; a school passing that filth out? My recently developed and oversensitive sense of morality was offended to the core. (I saw myself as an authority, set apart from other kids. Needless to say, I was an insufferable giant child.)

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Review: Tigana

Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay


Well, this is it—the last update for Memory’s Tigana Read-Along. I’ve really enjoyed slowing down and looking at the text semi-academically; it’s helped me get more out of the text than, perhaps, I would have on my own, considering my last experience with Kay, The Summer Tree. (I enjoyed it, but I could definitely tell Kay is a devotee of Tolkien.) I was always going to give Kay another shot, and I’m quite glad I ultimately did with Tigana; I’ll be definitely be reading more. (But maybe just not The Fionavar Tapestry.)

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